Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An Unexpected Blip On The Screen

I consider it a healthy sign of life that I have somewhat abandoned blogging. It's been 10 months since my last entry and I realize that I associate this blog with cancer updates, and until this week, I haven't wanted to post anything.
A few weeks ago, out of nowhere (that's where all cancer seems to come from), I began feeling a disturbingly familiar throb in my chest at that place where my right 3rd rib meets my sternum. Over a day or so, it got increasingly worse. I know this sensation; it's how it all started in August of 2009. I called my oncologist and we decided to bump up my annual PET scan and do it now instead of waiting for December. I had it done last week.

The result is mostly, but not completely good; the spot that made me have the scan early is unchanged. Yay! There are no changes in any of the places I had previously had bone mets (clavicle, scapulae, pelvis). Yay! Nothing lights up in any organs. Yay!

But, as Pee Wee said in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, "Everybody has a big but...", a 1.3 cm spot lights up in my right breast. No one knows what that means. I originally had about 4 or 5 tumors in my right breast and they went away within 4 months of starting estrogen blockade (and all the other things I did back then to address my "terrain".) Is this a new breast cancer? Or is this an old one waking up? Has it mutated and changed? If we hadn't done this scan, would it be gone a month from now? These are all unknowns. I will pursue the answers which are knowable, and continue to practice living with the uncertainty of the answers that are unknowable.

I am going to have it biopsied this Friday October 20th, which is a good thing to do after 8 years of estrogen-based treatment, just to see if it's character and sensitivity to estrogen has changed. The worst case scenario here is that I have to change my treatment plan, but a new one would still be based on some oral medication. Although it's not the result that I would prefer, it's not catastrophic or devastating. I'm disappointed, but not that distraught.

If you're curious about what I've been up to, check out my 2 workshops for 2018:

Steve and I are still dancing tango. It's somewhere on the spectrum of fun, meditative, creative, rehabilitative, frustrating, sensual, and exhilarating. Many of you have asked how I dance tango in sneakers (I won't inflict spike heels on myself), and have requested a visual. I'm sorry, but it's a contemplative practice for me and I wouldn't think of posting a video of me meditating. However, here's a video of someone else dancing in sneakers (not too shabby, huh?!) with a great contemporary punk tango band:

Vermont continues to be an amazing place to live. As the days grow darker and cooler, I look forward to sweaters, my fireplace, and pots of soup. As long as I'm not shoveling, it's good weather. And since I live in a condo, and someone else shovels, it's always a beautiful day!

It's still a full time job caring for myself. I have actually been writing, but not wanting to share what I'm writing yet. I know that it will turn into another book someday, and I'm needing to let it cook internally before sharing.
So, instead of sharing something I've been working on, here are a few excerpts from blog entries in which I explored living with uncertainty:

from 6/16/14:
“We all live along a continuum of uncertainty, but usually only realize this in retrospect. We have plans and ideas about what our life is about and where we think we are headed. And it can all change in a moment; a drunk driver can head right at us with nowhere to escape his impact, soldiers can go on a rampage in our village without warning, a hurricane or flash flood can wash away our home, a fire can ravage our home, but for me, it was metastatic breast cancer that suddenly announced the change of trajectory of my life and brought the awareness of uncertainty that had always been there. Unexpected questions arise when faced with the reality of uncertainty.”

from 2/6/12:
My challenge in all of this is to remember I’m the same person I was before the scan. This result doesn’t change my actual life; it just changes what I think about my life. I had an old teacher who used to say, “Your mind is a bad neighborhood. Don’t go there. You’ll get mugged.”

This is the reality of this disease. It is chronic. It will most likely come, and hopefully go, for the rest of my life, regardless of how long that ends up being. I can’t help but want to be special, be a miracle, be an overachiever, be an outlier, and I don’t want to feel like a failure or that I am to blame if things don’t go as I prefer.

This is as close as I get to positive thinking. I acknowledge my desire to live a long life and to have a chance to re-invent my life. I want to have more adventures. I want to be with my loved ones and be a part of their lives unfolding. I want to be of service to people again someday in some greater way. The intensity of these desires and my longing for life feels like my life force expressing itself. How do I maintain this passion for life and yet let go of what I can’t control?

I don’t believe in positive thinking because I don’t believe that thinking is the way to guide our lives. Positive or negative thinking is still thinking, and thinking is not the most powerful force in us. The harm that’s done is obvious when people get caught in repetitive negative thinking, but positive thinking can also make a person blind to that which they really need to be responding. There’s a fine line between positive thinking and denial. And regardless of what we think, our unconscious still exerts more influence than our conscious thoughts. I believe that people who say one thing and unconsciously harbor the opposite are ultimately at much more risk of serious consequences, because they are in internal conflict and discord and not in touch with the necessity of the moment.

So I let myself feel the disappointment, the sadness, the grief, but I don’t dwell on it. It’s like bad weather; it will pass. I try not to let fearful scenarios take up space in my thinking because they are clearly only one possible future. I also try not to dwell on my desire to have my life be mended, because my desires are not reliable either. If I get too attached it makes it harder to cope with not getting what I want when that eventually happens. Inhale. . . exhale. . .

It’s good to be alive and breathing as I sit here typing on this morning knowing that you all will be reading this and joining me in being alive together right now.

with much love and gratitude for having you all with me on this great adventure, Bonnie